Obesity Linked to Inflammation, Disease Severity Among People With Ankylosing Spondylitis

October 10, 2020

Central obesity may be especially unhealthy for people with the inflammatory condition that affects the spine.

People with ankylosing spondylitis who are obese had higher measures of inflammation, disease severity, and cardiovascular risk factors, a recent study found.

Researchers in Taiwan evaluated 105 AS patients, using total body mass index, waist circumference, and waist‐to‐height ratio [WHtR]) as measures of obesity. The number of patients who were categorized as obese varied with the measure. Judging by waist circumference, 67 of the people in the study were obese. Going by WHtR, 77 were.

The researchers looked for correlations between obesity — in the various ways it is defined — and various markers of inflammation, measurements of the severity of ankylosing spondylitis, liver function, and cardiovascular risk factors. Not surprisingly, they found many associations between obesity and those indicators of poorer health or risk factors for it. d

Their takeaway message is that obesity — and particularly “central obesity” that occurs when fat tissue accumulates in the abdomen — ikely worsens the consequences of ankylosing spondylitis and the course of the disease and, therefore, prevention of obesity should be a goal for people with the condition.

“Central obesity is a useful predictor for high disease severity in AS (ankylosing spondylitis),” they wrote at the conclusion of their study published in the International Journal of Rheumatic Diseases.

Of course it’s not just people with ankylosing spondylitis that are negatively affected by obesity, but research findings are suggesting many links between obesity and it and autoimmune diseases. A review paper titled, "Obesity in Autoimmune Disease: Not a Passive Bystander" that was published in Autoimmunity Review several years ago noted the evidence for obesity and an increased risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis , psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis in the first place. Moreover, once people have those and other autoimmune diseases, obesity is associated with a worse course and lower chance of responding to treatment, according to the evidence identified by the review paper.